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Wine legend: Pingus 1995

Find out why this Spanish gem makes the Decanter hall of fame...

Pingus 1995

Bottles produced 3,900

Composition 100% Tinto Fino (Tempranillo)

Average yield 12hl/ha

Alcohol 14.5%

Release price N/A

Price today £1494.80 at Hedonism

A legend because…

Pingus came out of nowhere. The 1995, the debut vintage, was sold through the Bordeaux market by American négociant Jeffrey Davies. Its winemaker, Peter Sisseck, took samples with him when he went to Bordeaux to stay with his uncle, winemaker Peter Vinding-Diers. Adam Brett-Smith of Corney & Barrow in London tasted the wine with Vinding-Diers and told Robert Parker about it. The US critic waxed lyrical, and its reputation was made. With Pingus, Sisseck had created a legendary and very profitable wine. Its status was only enhanced when in 1997 a quarter of the vintage was lost in a shipwreck in the Atlantic.

Looking back

Sisseck trained in his native Denmark and then worked with his uncle Vinding-Diers in Bordeaux. He moved to Spain in 1990 to seek out vineyards for his uncle, but those he found were in poor shape. They were bought instead by a Spanish group that created Hacienda Monasterio and hired Sisseck as manager. In 1994, he was winemaker at Hacienda Monasterio in Ribera del Duero, but the company was ailing and Sisseck left to pursue his own project.

The vintage

Ribera del Duero suffered from heavy frost in late April, but damage was limited and the vintage was saved by a very hot summer, which helped bring the vines to full and even maturity.

The terroir

Pingus is sourced from five organically farmed parcels in La Horra, four of them contiguous. The soil is clay-gravel over limestone. The 4.5 hectares of vineyards are well drained but also water-retentive, which is essential, as the vines are dry-farmed. As they were planted in 1929, yields are between 9hl/ha and 20hl/ha. The grapes are picked at high ripeness, and though the final alcohol levels can be very high, Sisseck finds it rarely detectable thanks to the wine’s natural balance.

The wine

Sisseck has always adapted vinification and oak-ageing regimes to suit the nature of the vintage, and his own evolving ideas. In 1995, two-thirds of the crop was hand destemmed, the remainder vinified as whole bunches; of the hand-destemmed segment, half was crushed, half left as whole bunches. The juice is fermented with native yeasts.

Malolactic fermentation takes place in new barrels, and in the 1990s 20% of the wine was decanted after racking into another set of new oak barrels. The idea was to expose the young wine to the most natural oxidation possible and avoid reduction. By 2008 Sissek was no longer using entirely new oak barrels, so the ageing regime has evolved. The wine stayed in barrel for almost two years, and bottled without fining or filtration.

The reaction

In 2012 Jeff Leve was dazzled: ‘Layers of sweet, ripe, black fruits, liquorice, espresso bean, earth, smoke, jam and spice. Rich, deep and concentrated, with opulent, lush textures.’

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